Published on February 1, 2024
For Sunday’s World Cancer Day and for National Cancer Prevention Month, share this review of research on several key nutrients for cancer prevention and outcomes
- Several key nutrients in reducing the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases are the same nutrients that many individuals are deficient in
- A study found that higher vitamin D levels had a protective effect on breast cancer risk with a significant dose-response trend so that for every 4 ng/ml (10 nmol/L) increase in vitamin D level, there was an additional 12% decreased risk; the protective effect was stronger for triple negative tumors, with a significant trend showing an additional 46% decreased risk for every 4 ng/ml (10 nmol/L )increase in level
February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and this Sunday (Feb. 4) is World Cancer Day. Please share the studies included in this email as part of the educational effort to fight cancer!
Several lifestyle behaviors, including diet, exercise, and getting enough vitamin D and other important nutrients, are key influencers of the risk of cancer, chronic diseases, and in our overall mental and physical health. Studies have shown that incorporating these and other beneficial behaviors into our daily life can also influence disease progression after diagnosis, improve disease outcomes, improve quality of life, and extend the lifetime.
However, when it comes to some of these specific nutrients,
- Up to 75% of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient; even when considering intake from both food and supplements, 65% of the US population remained below the daily requirements for vitamin D, according to NHANES data
- More than 80% are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids (below the recommended 8%)
- Over 45% of the US population are very likely deficient in magnesium
Why Should Anyone be Concerned About their Nutrient Intake and Status?
Look at the research!
A 2020 study by Shamsi et al. found that lower vitamin D levels among women, and certain lifetime sun avoidance behaviors, resulted in a higher risk of breast cancer diagnosis. Their matched case control study evaluated data from 411 women who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer and compared it to 784 controls who were free of breast or any other cancer…
A 2013 meta-analysis of 21 studies on omega-3s and risk of breast cancer by Zheng et al. concludes that higher consumption of omega-3s corresponds with a lower risk of breast cancer. The figure shows that as dose of omega-3s (shown as % energy intake per day) increases the relative risk of breast cancer decreases (p=0.011).
A 2019 study by Huang et al. recruited 1050 breast cancer patients and 1229 controls (women without breast cancer) in China and collected information about dietary magnesium intake. There was a 40% decrease in breast cancer risk for those with the highest dietary magnesium intake vs the lowest.
A subgroup of the Huang et al. study had serum measurements of CRP taken as a marker of inflammation. Those with CRP levels less than 3000 ng/mL had a 30% lower risk of breast cancer than those with levels at or above 3000 ng/mL. Dietary magnesium was found to have both a direct association and an indirect association with breast cancer risk.
Demircan et al. looked at breast cancer outcomes among 1996 patients with primary invasive breast cancer and correlated them to selenium status. Three different biomarkers of selenium (Se) were utilized: total serum Se concentration, selenoprotein P (SELENOP), and the glutathione peroxidase GPx3. Selenium status was divided into quintiles for each. The highest risk of mortality was seen among those with the lowest selenium status, and the relationship was strongest when selenium status was lowest according to all three measurements combined. Patients with the highest serum Se concentrations had a 58% lower risk of death compared to patients with the lowest serum Se concentrations.
When considered together, all three selenium biomarkers were better at predicting mortality than three of the most important tumor characteristics.
Below we present yet another study demonstrating the protective effect of vitamin D against breast cancer incidence. Additional studies on the effect of vitamin D and other nutrients and lifestyle behaviors on breast cancer and cancer in general can be viewed here.
Higher Vitamin D Levels Offer Greater Protective Effect Against Breast Cancer, with the Strongest Effect Against Triple Negative Cancers
A study by Lope et al. included data from 546 breast cancer cases and compared it to data from 558 controls in order to examine the association between vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk, specifically by pathologic subtype, stage at diagnosis, and specific breast cancer risk factors. Blood samples for vitamin D were taken from breast cancer patients before starting chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormonotherapy. According to their analysis,
- 55% of controls and 69% of breast cancer cases presented with vitamin D deficiency (levels below 20 ng/ml or 50 nmol/L)
- higher vitamin D levels had a protective effect on breast cancer risk
- there was a significant dose-response trend so that for every 4 ng/ml (10 nmol/L) increase in vitamin D level, there was an additional 12% decreased risk
- no differences in the protective effect of vitamin D were found between menopausal status, stage at diagnosis, or with any of the main breast cancer risk factors
- the protective effect of vitamin D was stronger for triple negative tumors, with a significant trend showing an additional 46% decreased risk for every 4 ng/ml (10 nmol/L )increase in level
The authors conclude
“Public health and clinical strategies aimed at improving vitamin D levels would be desirable, taking into account the high proportion of women with inadequate concentrations of 25(OH)D.”
Have You Measured Your Levels Lately?
Measuring your levels is the only way to tell if you are getting enough vitamin D, omega-3s, magnesium, and other nutrients, and is a simple and easy step to take towards improving health. Other measures, such as the testing of toxic elements (including lead, mercury and cadmium), C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation in the body) and HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar health), can help guide you towards other specific lifestyle behaviors that might need to be added or modified to support better health and reduce your risk of disease.
GrassrootsHealth offers at-home test kits for each of the above, along with educational materials for how to utilize supplements, diet, sunshine, and other lifestyle factors to help improve and maintain health. Have you measured your levels lately?
Create Your Custom Home Test Kit
With your kit you can measure your:
- Vitamin D
- Magnesium PLUS Essential and Toxic Elements
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Type 1 Diabetes Autoantibodies
Did you know that each of the above can be measured at home using a simple blood spot test? As part of our ongoing research project, you can order your home blood spot test kit to get your levels, followed by education and steps to take to help you reach your optimal target levels. Start by enrolling and ordering your kit to measure each of the above important markers, and make sure you are getting enough of each to support better mood and wellbeing!
Create your custom home test kit today. Take steps to improve the status of each of these measurements to benefit your overall health. With measurement you can then determine how much is needed and steps to achieve your goals. You can also track your own intakes, symptoms and results to see what works best for YOU.
How Can You Use this Information for YOUR Health?
Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Measuring is the only way to make sure you are getting enough!
STEP 1 Order your at-home blood spot test kit to measure vitamin D and other nutrients of concern to you, such as omega-3s, magnesium, essential and toxic elements (zinc, copper, selenium, lead, cadmium, mercury); include hsCRP as a marker of inflammation or HbA1c for blood sugar health
STEP 2 Answer the online questionnaire as part of the GrassrootsHealth study
STEP 3 Using our educational materials and tools (such as our dose calculators), assess your results to determine if you are in your desired target range or if actions should be taken to get there
STEP 4 After 3-6 months of implementing your changes, re-test to see if you have achieved your target level(s)